Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, appeared to be heading for a fourth term Tuesday evening representing the 36th Congressional District as he claimed a growing lead over Republican challenger Kimberlin Brown Pelzer, a former actress turned local businesswoman.

Ruiz, a Coachella Valley native and physician, has maintained a strong footing in the district since unseating incumbent Mary Bono in 2012, triggering a brief era of Democratic reign in a district typically controlled by Republicans.

Ruiz says that despite his sustained presence in Congress, “I’m not a career politician, and I never will be.” He identifies affordable healthcare and veterans’ issues among his chief issues, stating that his work as a doctor allows him “to put people first.”

A Palm Springs resident who starred on “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” Brown Pelzer first arrived on the political scene as a guest speaker at the Republican National Convention in 2016. She has also started a number of small businesses with her husband, Gary. She said the enterprises have given her firsthand experience on the needs of small business owners, and like Ruiz, doesn’t characterize herself as a politician.

“We need new, principled leaders who are not afraid to say what they mean and stick with it,” she said in campaign materials.

Brown Pelzer has identified defense, immigration and tax reform as her key issues, while stating that Ruiz has failed to make any real progress during his tenure.

“Since joining Congress five years ago, he hasn’t passed a single piece of meaningful legislation,” she contends on her campaign website. “I have a track record of successes, I follow through on my promises and I’ll get results.”

Despite her claim regarding Ruiz’s track record, he noted his work in the passage of a bipartisan bill protecting Medicare, as well as the Wildfire Prevention Act of 2017, which authorizes the president to provide “hazard mitigation assistance” in areas affected by fires.

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